The Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote on Friday that Teach for America will receive more than $2 million to bring their corps members to Northeast Ohio schools next fall.  The funding will come from the ClevelandGeorge GundNord and Stocker foundations, along with a contribution from the Lennon Trust, and will pay for the national program to recruit and train college graduates who majored in subjects other than education and help them move to the area.

According to Teach for America vice president Mike Wang who is working to bring the program to the region, the money will help bring at least 30 teachers to school districts and charter schools in Cuyahoga and Lorain counties.

We exposed the flawed logic behind the Governor’s and GOP’s push to bring Teach for America to Ohio back in March, and despite the passage of laws enabling the program to expand to Ohio, neither the facts nor our stance have changed:

House Bill 21 & Senate Bill 81 lower the quality of teaching for future children by lowering these current standards for teacher preparation. Teach for America is touted as bringing the best and the brightest to the classroom, but we have always done so in Ohio through existing state law requiring universities to provide rigorous teacher preparation programs.

House Bill 21 & Senate Bill 81 would require the Ohio Department of Education to issue a Resident Educator license to all TFA participants, including those who have never set foot in an Ohio classroom.

In that particular post, we only addressed the erroneous thinking of the legislators who claimed the law was necessary from an educational reform perspective.  We didn’t speak to the flawed economics that prop up the Teach for America program and undermine any stated rationale for certifying the program in Ohio.

While Teach for America only requires 50 hours of cooperative teaching during a summer school program, Ohio state law requires that prospective teachers complete a minimum of 460 hours of field experience, including 12 weeks of teaching, with typically 6 of those weeks being full days of independent instruction, under the supervision of a university professor. These programs come at a huge price to students who make significant personal and financial investments in pursuing a career in the field of education at Ohio’s universities.

Did we mention the $4,000-$5,000 “finder’s fee” that school districts pay to Teach for America for every corps member hired?

Let’s do some quick calculations about this report of TFA’s emergence in NE Ohio.

  • Private funds totaling $2 million
  • Hiring at least 30 TFA members [we’ll generously round it to 40]

$2,000,000 / 40 members = $50,000 per TFA corps member brought to Ohio.  That’s right around the average salary of an existing teacher in Ohio and well above the average starting salary.  But this money isn’t for those new teachers.  Instead, this money goes directly to TFA to cover the brief summer training session and mentoring.

Okay, that’s not true, the funding doesn’t cover all of the training and mentoring.

Check out this final sentence of the Plain Dealer article that is crucial in understanding the economics of the TFA program:

The grants will not cover teacher salaries, which will be paid by the schools. Schools will also contribute toward the training.

That’s right, the $50,000 per member isn’t even enough to cover the five-week training.  Schools will have to chip in for that, too. And the “education reformers,” especially those in Ohio’s legislature and their private donors, are griping amount providing adequate funding to schools?  And here we have foundations doling out checks to pay for training that costs $10,000 per person per week?  Does anyone want to guess what the Plain Dealer or Dispatch would write if a public school district sent a group of teachers to a five-week summer institute at a cost of $50,000 each?

Even more, can you imagine the type of professional development a teacher could receive if a district was allocated $50,000 per year?  School districts would drool over even 1/10th of that amount if they were able to involve their career educators in such development work.

But alas, the GOP and private corporations have the misguided belief that we’re all somehow better off throwing enormous sums of money at temporary educators instead of making an investment in individuals who have dedicated their lives to teaching children.  Individuals who have spent years in both college and PK-12 classrooms learning how to become professionals in an underappreciated career field.  Individuals who have willingly committed to give up their evenings and weekends forever, and have spent an incalculable amount of their personal income on their students knowing they will never be submitting an expense report to their boss for reimbursement.

No, let’s just write a check to a large organization to find short-term educational hitmen, then let that organization charge schools an additional fee on top of that amount.  The GOP wouldn’t DREAM of shelling out $55,000 for a top graduate from an accredited university’s college of education, but if they’ve got middle-of-the-pack credentials in some other field of study (minimum 2.5 GPA – no slackers!), open up the pocketbook, because the money is begging to be spent.  Throw that money at a five-week summer class with minimal student exposure on the basics of being in a classroom, then charge the districts an extra fee for the right to put the graduate of that 5-week training, now a “licensed teacher,” in front of a room full of high-need students and cross your fingers that they last more than a week.

That’s reality.

In a nutshell, the entire situation with TFA in Ohio demonstrates the lack of respect that is given the teaching profession in our country.  Whether we are talking about a young adult exploring the career of teaching through a high school program or a teacher with 30+ years of experiencing in meeting the needs of hundreds of unique children, TFA supporters don’t care — they think you’re not worthy.

And to revisit some basic math that is too complicated for Governor Kasich and the GOP leadership, using the TFA-type of privately funding process to replace classically-trained teachers will result in a dramatic leap in required educational funding.  Given that Ohio currently replaces approximately 4,000 teachers annually, the TFA price structure (2-year commitments = $27,500 per year) would require an additional $11 million per year.  Once the 2-years-and-out hired guns get embedded in the process and begin rolling out of their jobs on a more regular basis then the costs would begin growing every year, with absolutely ZERO effect on salaries and no reduction to other district expenses.

Maybe such extreme numbers should be considered hyperbole.  But why would the Governor speak so highly of a program, and why would foundations pay an additional $55,000 per teacher for a program if they didn’t want it to have amazing success?  If this program, as the Governor has famously claimed, will bring in outsiders to save our children, wouldn’t that at least imply a commitment to funding such a process and using the model to reform teaching and teacher education in Ohio?

Kasich said Teach For America participants are “the cavalry.”

“They’re going to ride on white horses with white hats into our schools and be able to interject a tremendous amount of enthusiasm, talent, capability and real-world understanding,” the governor said.

(Columbus Dispatch, April 27, 2011)

For $2 million, Ohio’s children deserve more than 40 white hats and 40 white horses.  Ohio’s children deserve well-prepared teachers who have committed their lives to becoming professional educators.

America needs to start supporting legitimate teacher education programs that are researching innovative practices and working to develop future teachers by working with career educators with years of practical classroom experience.  If public schools received anywhere near the same level of support and latitude that politically-favored programs do, we could experience sustainable long-term improvements instead of the endless stream of drive-by initiatives that only serve to bind schools in a perpetual state of tumultuous transformation.